Monday, December 13, 2010

Foolish Fast Food Ban

In what may be a harbinger of what's to come in NYC, Los Angeles has initiated a ban on new fast food outlets in South Los Angeles:
"New stand-alone fast food restaurants have been banned from setting up shop in South Los Angeles, due to rising health concerns by the city council. How many fast food eateries does one area really need? The Los Angeles City Council thinks South Los Angeles and South East Los Angeles need new choices as these regions face an over-concentration of such restaurants. "This is not an attempt to control people as to what they can put into their mouths. This is an attempt to diversify their food options," said councilmember Jan Perry."

But, of course, that's exactly what this is-an attempt to order the behavior of others in the belief that they are incapable of doing that for themselves. As Hot Air points out: "What, there aren’t any high-priced French restaurants in South LA?  Sacre bleu! That might have something to do with the high unemployment and low incomes in the area.  Perry complains that 72% of the restaurants in the area are fast food compared to West LA’s concentration being in the mid-40s, but the obvious explanation is that higher income areas can support higher-priced restaurants.  If Olive Garden could make a profit in South LA, they’d already be there.  The issue isn’t that fast-food restaurants are hogging the commercial space, but that other establishments aren’t moving into the area."

Or, it's the economy stupid! And does Perry believe that banning new fast food outlets will bring more diverse eating options to South LA? What the ban will do, however, is to stifle economic growth in a city whose unemployment rate is now 11.7%-and is undoubtedly higher in South Central: "A whopping 20% of LA’s black community has not worked in the past year, proving once again, the wonders of liberal policies for the African American community."

As one franchise business reference points out: "According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, franchising is the fastest-growing kind of small business. Furthermore, each new franchise generates 8-14 new jobs and a new franchise opens an average of every eight minutes per business day. Overall, franchises create over 300,000 new jobs per year."

Council member Perry is daft-and in trying to improve the health of his constituents is forgetting about the economic health of the neighborhood And we have seen how income levels correlates with obesity, but improving income is a function of greater economic opportunity. But it isn't just about the 8-14 new jobs that a new fast food outlet generates.

Franchises also offer a great opportunity for women and minority entrepreneurs: "Franchising has opened the door of opportunity for women, families, and minorities. Women have discovered that operating franchises often allows them to spend more time with their families. Women wholly own about 10 percent and jointly own about 30 percent of U.S. franchise outlets, according to the Small Business Administration. In many cases, families pool their resources and time to operate outlets—and often use the profits to create their own mini-chain of stores. Minorities have benefited, too. They have been able to locate establishments in urban areas which at one time lacked minority ownership. Significantly, some franchisors such as Burger King and the Southland Corporation, owner of the 7-11 convenience stores, provide special financial programs for minority owners. They also work closely with organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to recruit more minority owners. In this respect, franchises have been a boon for society."

So, in the name of better health, Los Angeles is undermining the economic health of low income neighborhoods-leaving aside the philosophical issues of treating citizens like children. The city is demonstrating how the concern for health-ubber alles-can lead into self defeating and destructive directions-something we have seen with some clarity taking place under the direction of Mother Mike in NYC.
It's time to put a top to all of the social engineering for health-the unhealthy, and unintended consequences, of this kind of policy making is truly a disaster in the making.